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Every year’s recruiting rankings are basically the same: 2019 edition

Here are a few familiar story lines we see every year and the teams that happen to inhabit them this time around.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Georgia vs Texas Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

After each Signing Day, the final recruiting rankings have a rhythm to them. Your team’s gonna end up in basically the same place it does every year. And in the national context, your team probably filled a similar niche role to the one it filled the year prior as well. There’s a ton of SEC teams in the top 25! There’s not a G5 team til around the 50s! ... etc.

Taking a look at 2019’s Composite rankings, here are some teams that stand out as filling certain familiar roles, for reasons beyond just having the best signees.

No. 135 or so: North Dakota State

The Bison are No. 142 this February, but could be No. 1 in FCS once again next January, with another class full of good defenders from the Midwest and a Southern athlete or two.

No. 136 or so: The FBS team that finishes behind a few FCS teams

This year, moribund Texas State finished behind:

  • Harvard
  • Yale
  • Princeton
  • Stephen F. Austin
  • Central Arkansas
  • Plus FBS newcomers Liberty and Coastal Carolina

No. 125 or so: The Ivy League team atop FCS

It’s a recent phenomenon, but a couple of these teams elevating their recruiting to the 120s is a trend worth watching.

Only a handful of teams: The NCAA-ideal class size

No. 106 Kent State had 25 signees, as did No. 5 LSU. Even though that’s basically the NCAA’s prescribed number, only 10 FBS teams hit it on the nose, because scholarship math is very pliable.

A class on the small side

No. 103 Temple’s 17-man class is another twist in an odd offseason for the Owls. Sometimes teams with transitional recruiting classes hold some signees back and go big during Year 2. Only six FBS teams signed fewer players.

A class on the large si- wait, a service academy signed **50** guys?

Yeah, that’s 2019 No. 102 Air Force. One of the academies usually signs about this big of a class every year. Navy’s 2017 class had as many as 70 players, depending on which site you looked at.

Service academy recruiting is a very different world. There are extra physical and academic filters, and there are no athletic scholarships (so the NCAA’s soft 25-signee rule doesn’t apply). Also there’s the whole mandatory military service that “is a turnoff for a lot of kids,” per Army’s Jeff Monken.

A blue-chip signee who signed with a mid-tier team

Congrats, No. 79 BYU!

The top players don’t sign exclusively with top-10 programs. In the rarest cases, even a five-star will sign with a Group of 5 school. But you can usually find a four-star signee right around here in the rankings. In 2018, Princeton’s 116th-ranked class was buoyed by a four-star QB who spurned Bama for the Tigers.

A team that signed multiple four-stars, yet had a low-rated class

FIU signed two in 2018 and finished 68th. BYU got two and finished 66th in 2017. This year it’s No. 63 Illinois, which signed more blue-chip players (three) than:

  • Louisville (transitional)
  • Oregon State
  • Texas Tech (transitional)
  • Kansas (transitional)
  • Washington State
  • Kansas State
  • Rutgers
  • Maryland (transitional)
  • Boston College
  • Vanderbilt
  • Arizona
  • Wake Forest
  • Syracuse
  • Georgia Tech (transitional)
  • Northwestern
  • West Virginia (transitional)
  • Iowa State
  • Duke
  • Colorado (transitional)
  • UCLA
  • Minnesota
  • Cal
  • Virginia
  • Baylor
  • Michigan State

But don’t mistake this rating for its actual quality. Because it’s small (13 commits total), it’s lower than it would’ve been with a more normal number of signees.

Illinois’ class ranks 86.79 on a per-player average basis, good for 29th when ranking purely by average talent. That’s 3.03 better than the average of Lovie Smith’s previous two non-transitional classes, or a third of a star better per player.

A power-conference school that got absolutely destroyed in-state

Of the top 30 players in the state of Arizona, the No. 56 Arizona Wildcats signed one of them. Arizona State didn’t do much better in-state, but at least got the job done out-of-state and signed the No. 31 class.

No. 51 or so: Damn near always Northwestern

The Wildcats’ average class ranking over the last eight years is 52.6.

The highest-ranking Group of 5 team

No. 50 Boise State usually checks in right around here. This is actually a bit high though. In fact, it’s one of the best non-power recruiting class ever.

A Power 5 team that should be a lot higher, but really might just have no clue what it’s doing

No. 44 UCLA is in a great area, its traditional rival is down, and they’ve got a brand name coach. So, this is not great, UCLA:

And when UCLA did pursue a prospect that the rest of the college football world considered to be elite, it whiffed in spectacular fashion: 1 for 40. UCLA offered 40 four- or five-star recruits, and signed just one.

Given that USC, just signed its worst class in the history of modern recruiting rankings (since 2003, or so), this failure to bring in elite talent by UCLA has to be looked at as a major missed opportunity.

Maybe Chip Kelly’s again gonna prove he’s smarter than the rest of us, but most of this class was banked before losing one of the staff’s ace recruiters: former LB coach Roy Manning. They’re 25 spots worse than last year.

A mid-level Power 5 team with current or future NCAA trouble to deal with

A spot belonging to teams like Ole Miss and Penn State in the past, No. 36 Missouri’s up here in 2019 with a decent class at an average rating of 86.23. But here’s what they’ll be up against next year:

A 5 percent reduction in the amount of scholarships in each of the football, baseball and softball programs during the 2019-20 academic year.

Recruiting restrictions for each of the football, baseball and softball programs during the 2019-20 academic year, including:

A seven-week ban on unofficial visits.

A 12.5 percent reduction in official visits.

A seven-week ban on recruiting communications.

A seven-week ban on all off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.

A 12.5 percent reduction in recruiting-person or evaluation days.

The hope is that Missouri’s appeal (likely contesting at least a few of these specific and limiting recruiting restrictions) wins out. But if it doesn’t ...

A typically strong recruiting school that’s outside the top 25 after a weird coaching change?

No. 28 Miami.

The lowest you can find a class with a five-star

Logan Brown’s the No. 17-ranked player in the country and signed to No. 27 Wisconsin. Naturally, he’s an offensive lineman. It’s not as low as Houston’s 36th-ranked 2016 class, which was anchored by five-star Ed Oliver.

Surprise team recruiting way above its usual level.

No. 25 Purdue!

A real big Year 2 bump

Transitional recruiting classes are pretty hard to nail for an incoming coach. So it’s no surprise that No. 23 Arkansas finished 48th in the 2018 rankings. What is a surprise is how well the Hogs bounced back with this class despite being bad on the field. Because the SEC had a tremendously dominant year on the trail as a group they’re 10th in the league, but it is still a solid haul for them.

Damn near the whole SEC in the top 25

Except for Vanderbilt.

1. SEC — average class 18.5, average blue-chips 11.3

2. Big 12 — average class 33, average blue-chips 4.6

3. Big Ten — average class 35, average blue-chips 5.1

4. Pac-12 — average class 38, average blue-chips 4.5

5. ACC — average class 40.6, average blue-chips 3.6

6. AAC — average class 87.9

7. Conference USA — average class 89.2

8. Mountain West — average class 97.3

9. MAC — average class 104

10. Sun Belt — average class 106.5

The “why are they this low?” elite that may not be fine.

USC ... yikes.

The “why are they this low?” elite that’ll be just fine.

No. 10 Clemson’s been this team before when they finished even lower (14th in 2017). You’ll be shocked to know that they were just fine. Ohio State can also be considered here, as 2019’s No. 14 team.

Team that had a great class but it probably still won’t get them over the hump of their slightly more talented rival.

Hi, No. 8 Michigan.

A blood feud on the field that is coincidentally playing out on the recruiting trail

Texas and Texas A&M occupy this zone this year. But then again, they don’t play on the field and totally don’t care about each other.

No. 2: A new team within shouting distance of Alabama

Could be USC, Texas, LSU, Florida State, or Ohio State, depending on the year. Recently it’s been Georgia. At least the Dawgs are replicating Bama in a way that makes you think they’re a legitimate threat.

No. 1: Alabama